Kimberly McNeeley, Austin's Parks and Recreation Department director, is departing the city after 14 years to serve as The Trail Conservancy's CEO.

The big picture

Former interim City Manager Jesús Garza announced McNeeley's upcoming exit from the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, or PARD, on May 2.

McNeeley remains with the city through a transition period in May, Garza said. She'll start work at the conservancy—the nonprofit helping to manage and maintain Austin's Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail through a phased city agreement—on June 10.

“I am incredibly excited to lead The Trail Conservancy and continue my journey in enhancing Austin’s recreational and green spaces,” McNeeley said in a conservancy news release. “As an avid user of The Trail, I look forward to working with the talented team at TTC and the Austin community to foster an accessible, sustainable and vibrant trail for everyone.”

McNeeley was chosen to lead the trail stewardship organization through consulting firm Potrero Group's monthslong national search that brought in more than 150 applicants, according to the conservancy.

Quote of note

Assistant City Manager Stephanie Hayden-Howard, who oversees parks operations, credited McNeeley for improving Austinites' quality of life during her time with PARD.

"She has significantly contributed to the development and growth of the parks system, its programs and their impact on residents' lives. Her dedication and hard work in all the efforts she has taken on for the city have enhanced citywide safety, facilities and amenities for all residents," she said in a statement. "We thank Director McNeeley for her contributions, and we wish her well in her future endeavors."

What's next

Shortly before he retired from the interim manager position in early May, Garza said details about the selection of a new PARD director would be coming soon.

A city spokesperson on May 13 also said more information about the parks director transition will be provided in the future.

In its release, the conservancy said McNeeley intends to focus on both conservation around the trail as well as collaboration with Austin parks stakeholders in her new role.

“Kimberly’s profound understanding of Austin’s community, its cherished green spaces and environmental objectives make her the perfect leader to take The Trail Conservancy to its next level of growth,” conservancy board Chair Michael Marin said in the release. “Her exceptional knowledge of and passion for the Butler Trail and the Austin community set her apart, proving Austin really does have the best talent pool—including an effective leader who is passionate about the Trail and what it means to our city."

Zooming in

The city and conservancy interacted throughout McNeeley's tenure at PARD.

The Trail Conservancy is one of several local environmental and community groups, such as the Pease Park Conservancy and Waterloo Greenway, that Austin formally partners with for green space management and improvements.

Last year, the conservancy worked with the city to roll out some new features near Rainey Street amid a focus on safety there. The group is working on other projects with PARD support and funding, including renovations to the Rainey trailhead park and upgrades at Holly Shores.

Most recently, the conservancy supported new city environmental regulations for the trail along the Lady Bird Lake waterfront. The organization was also involved in last year's contentious, unsuccessful attempt to establish a new vision plan for Zilker Metropolitan Park.

The conservancy's City Council-approved 2023 report and 2024 programming plan can be viewed here.